Making a 1620s Busk (CoBloWriMo Day 15)

With several small projects happening at the moment, I am getting a head start on tomorrow’s “Small Project” prompt. The first project I am presenting you today is the wooden busk I made for my 1620s stays. I made it using these instructions from Drea Leed’s Elizabethan Costume page.

The finished busk.

For it, I used a 35 mm wide, 10 mm thick pine board. The finished length is 12″ (30 cm). Since the busk’s conical shape was a little trickier to work than the simple Regency-era busk I made using a paint stir stick, my dad kindly gave me a hand with the woodworking.

When it was all sanded and oiled with a tiny dash of canola oil, I felt like adding some design to the finished piece. So I scratched away with a small etching knife and created this little fleur-de-lis. Seeing how I had never etched anything before, it turned out pretty well.

My attempt at an etched fleur-de-lis.

This whole project was so small, it came together in one afternoon. And I am quite happy with it. Although it’s not a real hardwood busk as they were used in the period, it is very stable but also light to wear. The only choice of hardwood at the local store would have been beechwood. But it would have been very, very heavy. So sticking with the trusty old pine was a good idea. :)

Nessa

Jacobean Waistcoats of the 1600s (CoBloWriMo Day 3)

Today’s focus is on extant garments we adore. Since I just blogged about the extant item I own before reading the prompts, let us take a look at the other extant garments that have been on my mind of late: embroidered ladies’ waistcoats from the early 17th century.

The first example that usually comes to mind is Margaret Layton’s jacket at the V&A. Yes, the one she also wears in the painting. ;)

Painting of Margaret Layton by Marcus Gheeraerts and embroidered waistcoat (c. 1620, V&A)

But that is not the only surviving jacket there is. Especially in early 17th-century England waistcoats, embroidered such as this one or of knitted silk, seemed to have been a staple for the fashionable lady. Especially the ones with Jacobean crewel embroidery in silk and gilt threads required quite a bit of small change to buy though. Elisa of Isis Wardrobe has collected a few different examples of various origin on her blog. It is fascinating to look at and the linen waistcoat with woven silver stripes has totally stolen my heart.

Similar to the Layton jacket, there is another embroidered waistcoat I love in the Burrell Collection at Glasgow museum. It is also included in “Patterns of Fashion 3”.

Embroidered waistcoat (c. 1615-18; Burrell Collection, Museum of Glasgow).

Some time ago, a team of curators and embroiderers have set about recreating the Burrell jacket. They have compiled this great little film that gives lots of detail on this type of waistcoat, the Jacobean embroidery technique and also how the garments were fitted and worn. I really like the video and have recommended it many times before. Here it is for you, too.  Enjoy!

Whenever I look at all these pretties, I curse myself a bit for making my 17th-century persona French. These waistcoats were not common in this part of Europe. French sumptuary laws have played some role in this as they limited the amount of embroidery and, especially metallic threads. The same laws also barred most classes from using them at all. I can feel a post coming about this topic in the near future! And, maybe, I will find an excuse to make my own waistcoat after all. We shall see! For now I will just finish those stays.

Yours, Nessa

1630s Stays In The Making (CoBloWriMo Day 2)

Since it is August already (wow!) CoBloWriMo has officially started. So here I am accepting the challenge to blog more this month. Since last fall, life has been pretty crazy here with finishing uni, moving house and traveling up and down country in search of the right job. So there is quite a queue of posts now, waiting to be written.

Today I got back from a long birthday weekend and am using the moment to answer the prompt of the day. It is to blog about my current project. And that is *drumroll* a pair of c. 1630s stays. After the smock I finished this spring, they have been the next item on the list. 

It took some time for me to get started, but two weeks ago, I finally felt brave enough to draft the pattern. Being new to 17th-century costume, it was quite intimidating at first, but eventually, after two mock-ups and lots of fittings, things relaxed for me. Now all the layers are cut out and we are almost ready for boning.  Here are some facts about the project so far:

Pattern: Based on the Dorothea von Neuburg stays in “Patterns of Fashion 3″ and ” & Crinolines”. To draft the waistline, I referred to Drea Leed’s Elizabethan corset pattern and instructions for boned tabs. For reference, I also looked at Caroline’s post on making 17th-century stays and Sarah Bendall’s reconstruction of the Dame Filmer bodies, on display at the Gallery of Costume in Manchester. Both have been immensely helpful.

The Dame Filmer bodies (c. 1630-50) at Gallery of Costume, City Galleries Manchester.

Another thing that has helped me out was a 1620s painting of a French lady at her toilette. It shows some interesting details of the tabs and also the straps which you can see underneath the lacey cape.

A French lady at her toilette (c.1620s).

Materials: 

  • Boning: German plastic whalebone, 5mm wide
  • Busk: Hardwood, 30 cm long, 3 cm wide and 9 mm thick.
  • Outer fabric: Orange handkerchief linen
  • Interlining: Heavy linen-viscose blend. It is not entirely HA but super sturdy. Since it is a pretty shade of violet, I might use it for binding, too.

Lining: White upholstery silk. This is a shot silk and absolutely not period. But it was readily available from a local shop and does its job nicely.

The make-up so far: After cutting out the three layers, I sewed together the front and back pattern pieces of each one. At this point I should have stay stitched them to prevent fraying. But I only did that in the next step, after pressing the seams and stacking the layers on top of each other. I do not recommend forgetting this step at all… ;)

Cutting out the top layer.

The lining sewn together.

Next I marked the busk pocket and boning channels with chalk. After some trial and error, I settled on 6mm wide channels. Right now, I am in the middle of sewing them, by hand, using white silk thread. This is how they are looking so far. I think this may take a while to complete. ;)

Boning channel WIP.

This has been the state of the stays so far. I will do my best to keep you posted. Right now, I am just very excited about being a part of CoBloWriMo for the first time. Let us see what surprises this month will bring.

See you soon, Nessa

The Finished 1630s Smock

And the smock is done! After spending the holiday weekend with the finishing touches of some dandelion pink embroidery I finally took the promised pictures. Although the lighting did not really play along with the photo op, I am very happy with the end result. :) Here is a look at the front and back.

The finished smock. :)

The back view.

As you can see in the bottom picture, I added some decorative pink herringbone embroidery over the shoulder seam. I did the same at the side seams and skirt gores. The idea for it, and also the colour choice, came from another 1620s-30s smock at the V&A. Aside from the herringbone, this extant one is also covered in really cute, pink flower and animal embroidery, worked in double backstitch.

Embroidery detail on an extant smock, Victoria & Albert Museum, c. 1615-30.

For the seams on my smock, I used two different sewing techniques that are also documented for the 17th century. The first, and slightly “older” one, are tiny (1/8″ to 1/4″) rolled hems, butted up and sewn together with whip stitches or openwork seams. Laura Mellin of Extreme Costuming has written a very nice tutorial on this technique. I used it to sew together my gores.

Skirt gore, joined with rolled and whipped seam in the center.

The second technique, are itty bitty 1/8″ felled seams, as documented by Janet Arnold. Those I used on the rest of the seams. To get them extra tiny, I hand-rolled the trimmed seam allowances as I went along. Still, as you can see on the shoulder seam below, mine did not turn out as narrow, leaning more towards 1/4″ wide.

Run and fell seam on the shoulder, worked over with herringbone stitch.

The other finishings were also on the narrow side, like the 1/4″ neckband for the neckline gathers and the small rolled hem on the sleeves. Like mentioned in the previous post, I added a bobbin lace casing at the wrist. It ties with a drawstring instead of fixed gathers or ruffles. The lace design was the closest to period designs I could get at the store. It was a really lucky find, on a 15 m roll, at a shop selling florist’s supplies.

Lace drawstring casing at the wrist.

The 1/4″ band at the neckline.

Since the entire smock was cut from squares and rectangles, it fits the Historical Sew Monthly’s April challenge. Okay, I admit the sleeves are actually parallelograms, but that is also a rectangle, right? ;) Here are all the challenge facts to sum up the project:

The Challenge: #4 – Circles, Squares & Rectangles

Fabric / Materials: 2 3/4 yards of 60″ wide linen blend fabric

Pattern: My own, based on “Patterns of Fashion 4”. See the previous post for details.

Year: ca. 1620-30.

Notions: Cotton-linen thread, pink embroidery floss, 1/2 yd. bobbin lace, 1 yd. hemp drawstring.

How historically accurate is it? About 90%. I tried to stick with period patterns and handsewing techniques. Deductions for minor viscose content in the fabric and the use of cotton notions.

Hours to complete: Between 90 and 100 hours.

First worn: For the photos.

Total cost: Around € 18 for the fabric and € 4 for the notions.

This has been my first real 17th-century project. After all the moping beforehand (sorry again about that) it turned out really well in the end. Whew!
For that I also have to thank Noelle and Bránn, who have helped to bring the smock on the right track. Bránn also has a blog. He makes awesome costumes from varied eras. If you have not already, feel free to stop by and have a look! It is absolutely worth it. :)

Now I think I am ready to start planning the bodies/stays to go on top. But first, the new Regency gown awaits. There has been an interesting development on that front since the last time I wrote about it here… but more about that soon.

Much love, Nessa

A 1630s Smock – Pattern & Construction

A day after my last post I decided to stop being a chicken and got to work on my 1630s smock. My journey into this new-to-me period started with a good look through “Patterns of Fashion 4”. There I found the 1625-30 smock from the V&A collection (p. 117). As you can see in the picture, the extant original features some really delicious lace inserts, made from five different types of bobbin lace. I was in love with it even before I had seen pictures of the actual smock.

Smock, c. 1620-40, Victoria & Albert Museum.

This, and the dating of course, is why I decided to use this smock as the main pattern base for mine. My version will not include as much lace, though, and perhaps a bit of plain embroidery. Other sources I used to create my pattern were Drea Leed’s Elizabethan Smock Pattern Generator and the Italian chemise tutorial by Jen of Festive Attyre. While I was looking around the web for resources I also stumbled across the collection of 17th century costume links Elisa of Isis’ Wardrobe has put together. It is a great place to start if you are planning to make a 17th-century outfit.

When making my smock pattern I tried to take some bulk out of the pretty massive extant pattern and tweak it to my petite 5′ stature. Instead of the high neck, I chose to make a low neckline to create a versatile garment that can also go under the more low-cut bodices of the time. In the end, my pattern looked like this:

Pattern pieces and measurements.

The pattern pieces are the following:

  • 1 body piece, 90″x45″
  • 2 sleeves, 23″ long, 20″ wide at the top, 10″ wide at the bottom
  • 2 underarm gussets. 5″ square
  • 2 triangular skirt gores, 11″ wide and 33 1/2″ high

The pattern includes a 1/2″ seam allowance and a 1 1/2″ hem at the bottom. To save space, I cut the gores from rectangles and joined them up at the center. This technique can also be seen on some extant smocks in PoF 4.

After cutting out all the pieces, I folded the body lengthwise and cut out the neck opening, following the schematic below. It sits right at the center of the body and has a total length of 35″ across, leaving a shoulder length of 5″ at each side. The dotted line in the drawing represents the shoulder line.  :)

Schematic of the neckline.

When making up the smock, the neckline is gathered into a 1/2″ wide band, folded in half. To make the band I used a 1 1/2″ wide fabric strip, cut on the straight of grain. The smock at the V&A uses a folded 1/4″ band, but I was too much of a chicken to try that on mine. ;) The length of the strip I determined by gathering the front and back neckline until I liked the fit. Then I measured around the opening:

The gathered front neckline comes to just over the top of the bust and has a total length of 21″. To this I added 10″ for the gathered back neckline. The outer 2″ edges of the neckline are not gathered. This helps the smock to stay on the shoulders. For them I added an extra 4″ to the neckband. Plus a 1″ seam allowance, this added up to a 38″ x 1 1/2″ binding strip.

You can use a similar strip to bind the sleeve cuffs. For a gathered sleeve, however, you should widen the sleeves’ bottom edge by 5 to 10 inches. My version has simple 1/4″ rolled hems. The top 3″ of the sleeve seam are left open to create a slit at the wrist. The bit above that I am closing up with a drawstring in a lace casing. Once finished, it will look like a delicate sleeve ruffle. I will post some pictures of what exactly I did there when the smock is finished.

It will not be too long now. The sewn-up smock went into the wash today. I am hoping to iron and finish everything in time for the April “Circles, Squares & Rectangles” challenge of the Historical Sew Monthly. I will tell you a little more about the materials and construction, too, once the challenge photos are in. Until then, I wish you all a lovely, sunny Mayday weekend.

Love, Nessa